There were three things that Grampa made every year that we looked forward to more than presents.
- Our gingerbread men the size of an adult shirt box,
- the sweet and yeasty slice of plum cake at Thanksgiving and this…
- Grampa’s Holiday loaf/yeast cake/holiday roll.
We don’t really know what to call it. He made it in September, let it mellow in the freezer for 3 months and then sliced it up after Christmas Eve dinner at his house. We got one loaf to enjoy for the year. That was it.
The last year he made it I was just a tween (before tween was word). He was sick the last two years of his life and didn’t have the strength or patience to teach me. When he passed all of his papers were filed away out of sight to make life easier on my mom. And then one day about 7 years later I thought… I want it. Mom let me dig around until I found it. Written in German & Metric, in Grampa’s cramped formal writing, it was nightmare of a challenge. Once the translation was done all that remained was finding the Sacred yeast Bowl™.
It is a piece of McCoy pottery and the only thing that ever goes in the bowl is the dough for this recipe. I wondered about it. But then things fell into place after dad died and now it makes a lot of sense. But that would mean jumping ahead of the story. So back to the Sacred Dough Bowl™.
Once that was dusted off, washed up and brought out into the light of my own kitchen, I set to work building the recipe.
It was the first that I ever worked with yeast. And let me tell you…. yeast is a far less forgiving master than Gordon Ramsey while it sits there frothing judgment at you. My first loaf oozed over the cookie sheet. It isn’t supposed to be wider than about 11 inches if that tells you how much of a gooey mess I had on hand. Caramelized sugar and egg blackened my pan. It was inedible.
Turned out that there were a lot of things wrong with my kitchen and not my interpretation of the recipe. The kitchen was too hot and too humid so the hour resting time was about 40 minutes too long. The yeast worked the dough too quickly for similar reasons. How did I figure that out if I’d never worked with dough before hand? Martha Stewart.
By this time it was the 90s and I’d been watching her show for a while. She did a special on her mother’s yeast dough recipes from Scandinavia and Poland and there was the key. The next loaves were much better. The ones I made when I lived in Marquette were perfect. As was the one for Christmas after dad died. This one is the 7th one I’ve made I think. I didn’t knead it like I should have so the dough is fluffy instead of striated like a yeast dough should be and thus more like a bread than a pastry. It looks like it should (mostly) and tastes exactly like it should! Who can complain?
Uncle Emil brought the recipe to American from Hamburg Germany in the 1800s. It had been offered in Grampa Armin’s bakery in Hamburg for an unknown number of years. I don’t know much more about it than that. So if anyone knows about this please let me know. And yes… recipe to follow.